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The Mystery of Fart-Smelling Wine: What Causes It and How to Avoid It

Sep 16, 2023 By Susan Kelly

You pour a glass of wine and anticipate the aroma of berries or oak. Instead, a foul stench assaults your senses, evoking the wine odor of rotten eggs. Your excitement deflates as the truth sinks in—you've encountered the dreaded fart-smelling wine. Don't despair; there are reasons this happens and ways to avoid such a sulfurous surprise in the future.

That's exactly what we're here for! We'll discuss everything related to fart-smelling wines and how to avoid them easily!

What Causes Some Wines to Smell Like Farts?

Have you ever sniffed a glass of wine and detected an odor reminiscent of, well, farts? If so, you're not alone. Some wines can develop hydrogen sulfide compounds that produce rotten egg-like smells. But what causes this stinky situation, and how can you avoid it?

  • Certain yeasts and bacteria present during the fermentation process can generate hydrogen sulfide gas, resulting in wine odor that smell of sulfur or farts. This is more likely to occur when:
  • Grapes have been overripe or damaged before fermenting. As grapes decay, yeasts and bacteria that can produce hydrogen sulfide thrive.
  • The wine has been exposed to too much oxygen during production or aging. This allows foul-smelling bacteria to grow and spoil the wine.
  • The wine contains a lot of sulfur-containing amino acids. Some grape varieties are more prone to this, especially if grown in hot climates.
  • Fermentation temperatures are too high. Yeasts and bacteria that generate hydrogen sulfide gas tend to be most active in warm environments.
  • Oak barrels used for aging the wine were contaminated. Barrels must be properly sterilized to avoid imparting foul odors to the wine.

The good news is many of these smelly compounds will disappear over time or can be prevented through careful winemaking practices. But when you do get an off bottle, don't despair - just chill it down, decant it, and give it some air. The foul odors often dissipate quickly, allowing the true aromas and flavors of the wine to emerge.

Common Culprits Behind Fart-smelling wine

Unfortunately, some wines can develop scents that resemble bodily odors. The good news is that there are a few common culprits behind fart-smelling wine and ways to avoid this unappealing aroma.

Sulfur Compounds

Yes, fellows! Sulfur-based molecules are often to blame for unpleasant odors in wine. Hydrogen sulfide produces a rotten egg smell, while mercaptans can emit odors resembling garlic, rubber, or feces.

These compounds can form naturally during fermentation or be released from sulfur-based preservatives when a wine is exposed to oxygen. To minimize sulfur smells, choose wines with little or no added sulfites and keep open bottles properly sealed.

Brettanomyces Yeast

"Brett" yeast, as it's known, is a wild yeast that can infect wine odor and release foul-smelling compounds like 4-ethylphenol, which produces odors reminiscent of bandages or farm animals.

Brett yeast infestations are hard to avoid, but choosing wines made with higher hygiene standards and sterile filtration can help. Once a wine is bottled, keeping it at proper storage temperatures will slow the growth of any rogue yeasts.

By understanding what causes wine smells like fart and taking a few precautions, you can avoid winding up with a glass of something that smells shockingly like, well, something it isn't supposed to! Choose your wines carefully, store them properly, and keep your sense of smell on the alert. With any luck, the only aroma wafting from your wine glass will be the pleasant, fruity notes you expect.

Tips for Avoiding Fart-Smelling Wine

To avoid ending up with a fart-smelling wine, there are a few tips you can follow:

Buy Wines with Secure Corks or Screw Caps

Wines with natural corks can allow small amounts of air to seep in, causing oxidation and developing funky smells. Synthetic corks and screw caps provide an airtight seal, keeping air out and aromas in.

Store Wine Upright in a Cool Place

Storing wine on its side can lead to seepage from around the cork, allowing air to enter the bottle. Keeping wine upright in a cellar or chill-chest prevents this. The ideal temperature is 55°F. Warm temps speed up aging and the development of unpleasant smells.

Decant Older Wines Before Serving

For older wines, pouring through a decanter helps separate the wine from sediment and exposes it to oxygen, “blowing off” volatile compounds that can smell rotten or gassy. Let the wine sit in the decanter for 30-60 minutes before drinking.

Check the Vintage and Grape Variety

Some grapes, like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, are more prone to developing unpleasant aromas over time due to their delicate nature. Older vintages, especially those over ten years, are more likely to exhibit smells from prolonged aging and oxidation. For fresher-tasting wine, choose a newer vintage.

Trust Your Nose

Please note that your nose is your best friend! If a wine smells like fart or smells off when you open the bottle, it will likely taste that way too. Don’t hesitate to return a bottle that smells rotten, musty, or excessively like rotten eggs. No one wants a glass of fart juice! Your nose knows best, so go with your gut if something smells amiss. Life’s too short for stinky wine.

The Takeaway!

So there you have it; now you know the two leading causes of fart-smelling wine and how to identify and avoid them. Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently select bottles that are less prone to developing sewer-like aromas and flavors.

The next time you're at a dinner party or romantic date, you can pour glasses of wine without fear of an unpleasant surprise waiting at the bottom. And should you end up with a bottle that does have faint hints of rotten eggs, at least now you understand why and can make an educated guess as to the root of the flaw.

Mystery solved, you can get back to enjoying your wine – fart-smelling wine need not apply!

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